Russia Suggests Renewing New START With No Further Demands, How Desperate Is Trump For A ‘Win’?

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Russia Suggests Renewing New START With No Further Demands, How Desperate Is Trump For A 'Win'?

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US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are reportedly near signing an extension of the New START (Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms).

“We are very, very close to a deal,” an unnamed US official told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. “Now that the Russians have agreed to a warhead freeze, I do not see why we cannot work out the remaining issues in the coming days.”

There is no official confirmation from the US side, while the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that no official response had arrived by October 20th.

“We have received no official response from the United States to our Note dated October 16 which contains the proposal put forward by President Vladimir Putin to extend the New START Treaty for one year. We have noticed only some comments made by U.S. officials on social media platforms. Given contradictory reactions to the actual situation, we want to clarify.”

The clarification is this:

“Russia offers to extend the New START Treaty for one year and meanwhile is ready to jointly with the U.S. undertake a political commitment to “freeze” for the above-mentioned period the number of nuclear warheads that each side possesses.

This position of ours may be implemented only and exclusively on the premise that “freezing” of warheads will not be accompanied by any additional demands on the part of the United States. Were this approach be acceptable for Washington, then the time gained by the extension of the New START Treaty could be used to conduct comprehensive bilateral negotiations on the future nuclear and missile arms control that must address all factors affecting strategic stability.”

The only response the US has provided is this:

“We appreciate the Russian Federation’s willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement on October 20th. “The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same.”

While the Russian statement ceded ground to U.S. negotiators on warheads, it did not offer stepped-up verification protocols to ensure that it would abide by the freeze.

“Russia wants an unverified warhead freeze. It would be very difficult to monitor through intelligence collection,” tweeted James Acton, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Both Russia and the United States would presumably … continue to produce new warheads, while dismantling old ones.”

Trump’s top arms control negotiator, Marshall Billingslea, is expected to brief NATO allies on the developments by October 25th.

 

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an unconditional renewal of the deal, causing Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien to urge Moscow to rethink its position “before a costly arms race ensues.”

Among the remaining issues that U.S. and Russian negotiators would need to hash out before such a deal is secured are the definitions of a warhead and how each side would verify compliance with the warhead freeze. Billingslea, the top negotiator, has called for a more rigorous inspection regime under a fresh New START agreement than in the original 2010 deal signed under the Obama administration.

However, it could be that the timing is key – Trump needs an urgent, and significant win before the presidential elections, Russia is aware of that, and this may be exploited.

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